McGregor Says: Savouring the first tastes of summer

One day last week, a young girl brought me a piece of strawberry shortcake.

A simple volunteer appreciation event had been planned for all those dedicated people who help out at the Douglas Park Community School and the students handed out handmade thank you cards, performed a hip-hop dance routine and thanked us with punch and dessert.

I’m always amazed at how much you can get back from volunteers for just a T-shirt, a pepperoni pizza and a simple, heartfelt thank you.

On the paper plate in front of me was shortcake covered with large, fresh sliced strawberries all smothered with whipped cream.

I took my first bite and just like that, it was summertime.

Some tastes or smells or sounds can instantly change the season regardless of the weather.

Sitting outside on the deck with a glass of iced tea is a great summer pastime, then add in the music from the ice cream truck as it trundles down the street.

I recall one summer when we decided to make homemade ice cream.

At first it seemed silly, because my Dad was a milkman and he could bring home a brick of Hillside ice cream anytime he wanted. On a hot day, Mom would slice the pieces into bowls for dessert and maybe add some canned peaches or blueberries or frozen strawberries picked the summer before.

I do recall making our homemade ice cream to be a messy event, with lots of laughing and tasting, and because it didn’t happen very often I think it was easier to get Dad to bring it home. But it was a family event and it was held in the family kitchen. That’s the place you really got to know your family.

Another taste of summer for me is root beer and another experiment comes to mind when we decided to make our own root beer one year.

I think Dad had bought a box of bottle caps and a bottle cap press at Gibson’s Auction one Thursday and we saved up a bunch of pop bottles.

Next, we bought some Hires root beer extract and then began another messy afternoon that involved yeast and syrup and sugar.

The biggest disappointment for us boys was finding out that, after all that work and patience, we would have to wait a couple of weeks while it fermented. Looking at all those bottles, full of that sweet elixir and not being able to pop them open was torture on a hot summer day.

But all I have to do is take one swig of a cold A&W root beer and I’m back in that country kitchen with a bottle of that home brew.

It always seems better when you make it yourself.

Trout sizzling in a cast-iron frying pan over a campfire beside a Caribou lake is a smell and taste that is unequaled by the world’s finest restaurants and is truly a summer memory. Summer is the taste of hot dogs covered in fried onions and relish.  The smell of flaming marshmallows followed by children’s shouts and screams is truly a summer sight and sound, and don’t forget to lather the butter on your corn cob.

All you have to do is add some cotton candy and mini-donuts from the PNE and your summer menu is complete. Tune up your taste buds, here comes summer.

At least that’s what McGregor says.